I have been seeing people post their daily additions for what they’re thankful on Facebook over the past couple of weeks, and it has me thinking of all the many things I’m thankful for too. I didn’t want to join in on daily messages late, but all those thoughts of course lead me to Madison, which in turn made me want to post a lengthy update on our blog (because it is long overdue).
CAVEAT – I am going to free type here. I have many thoughts floating around in my head without any real direction. I’m not going to proofread when I’m done. It’s too much. Find the heart of what I’m trying to say, and let that sink in rather than letting my poor grammar trip you up. So, stick with me here and you might understand everything by the end rather than getting lost somewhere in the middle.
So, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I am going to attempt to tell you all the things I’m thankful for with regards to Madison while attempting this update at the same time.
I am so thankful Madison was born in 2010!
For those of you that don’t know, Madison had to have another surgery this past February to correct some significant bladder issues. Long story short, because of her Spina Bifida (and damage to her spinal cord), we are pretty sure Madison doesn’t feel the sensation to urinate (pee for us common folk). Furthermore, as a result of having to catheterize her for the first six months of her life, bacteria took up permanent residence in her bladder. So, since she never peed on her own and continued to reintroduce stagnant urine back into her kidneys, she was much more sick that Mandy and I could see on the surface. Madison was fighting a nasty infection under the surface, and her only symptom was a suppressed appetite. She went almost a whole year without gaining any weight. Once we finally identified the culprit, her urologist at Vanderbilt told us she needed a vesicostomy (the crazy sounding surgery where her bladder is moved and opened up to constantly drain urine through a stoma in her abdomen (pee hole in her tummy!). It sounds pretty dramatic, I mean really who wants a kid with a hole in her belly that constantly leaks pee? And trust me here, pee has gotten into places nobody ever intended. Anyway (trying to move forward), this surgery was exactly what her little body needed. After some difficulties, she regained her appetite, began to put on weight, and her strength and energy markedly improved!
Now, I say all that to say this… Would this surgery have been possibly 50 years ago? No! Would it have been possible 30 years ago? Maybe?!?! What is possible this year? YES!!! The Lord planned Madison for these years, because the necessary medical procedures existed for her benefit. Don’t misunderstand me here, God definitely wasn’t waiting on the medical profession to advance to a point where He felt comfortable in bringing Madison into the world. He could heal Madison any way and any point in time He chose. However, to His glory and her benefit, He chose her to be born now and to be treated this way. A child with her type of Spina Bifida and symptoms born 50 years or further back, I wouldn’t give any chance of making it. This was clear to me after reviewing some photos of Madison and matching up with what was going on with her medically at that time. She was downright sick, but we couldn’t see it. If those things had been allowed to continue, without divine intervention, they would have swallowed her.
Remember, I’m not even mentioning the surgery to close her spine, or the shunt placed in her brain here. She was chosen for this point in history or HIS-STORY (think about it).
I am thankful for car rides to Madison’s school every morning!
One of our initial concerns for Madison was where she would end up cognitively and socially. Three-quarters of people living with her type of Spina Bifida have less than average intelligence. Selfishly here, Mandy and I struggled with this because we’re educators. Mandy’s an excellent teacher (won outstanding CTE teacher in the Southeast a few years back and was up for National Teacher of the year), and I work as a college administrator (I got a thank you card once), so education is an essential part of who we are. The first year we had Madison, there were still large concerns of ours because she was delayed in so many areas. Well, since many of you haven’t met Madison, let me announce to the world that these two areas are no longer of concern!
Madison is the happiest person I know, and she is smart as a whip that is sitting on top of a tack that is sharp (again, think about it… if you give it some time, you’ll get there!). She will love on anybody and is so sincere with her affection at such an early age!!! Now listen, she’s a looker and daddy isn’t going to let her date until after menopause, but I’ll let her give you hugs and kisses galore!
Besides her status as a budding socialite, here’s how sponge like brain works on the way to school every morning (I’ll play it out conversationally for you):
After leaving the house a driving for a few minutes:
Madison: “Daddy?” (in that sweet little voice)
Daddy (that’s me): “yes pooty” (don’t ask me why I call her pooty)
M: “What you doing?”
D: “Driving Monkey” I also call her monkey
M: “Daddy driving?”
D: “Yeah Nugget, daddy driving” nugget too… I’m pretty sure she going to have MPD
M: “Daddy, Ion (short for I wanna or I want to) sing ABC song”
D: “Okay Madison, but let’s say the ABC’s first okay”
D: “You start okay”
M: “K” à “A”
To which over the next few minutes Madison will say her ABC’s (while getting caught up on M and N, but for the most part, she’s got ‘em down). After she finishes, she reminds me of the bargain to sing the ABC song as part of the agreement to say the ABC’s first. So, we sing the ABC song and she does her best to following along. Now, here’s where it get’s precious after we sing the ABC song.
M: “Daddy?” seriously, the sweetest voice you’ve ever heard
D: “Yes ma’am”
M: “Ion sing Jesus”
To which we duet Jesus Loves Me while driving to school. After Jesus Loves Me, we will start the process all over with wanting the ABC song, daddy bargaining to say them first, and them encoring with Jesus.
I have no more worries or doubts about that little brain!
I am thankful for such a loyal family surrounding us
Just this past week, Mandy and I were asked to give (as briefly as we could) our history as a couple to our Lifegroup at church. To sum it up, we know God brought us to Cookeville for some very specific reasons. First, Mandy had some medical issues that we left unresolved in South Carolina that a physician diagnosed and corrected shortly after arrival. Second, we found Stevens Street Baptist Church. The people that make up this place adopted us. Enough said. Third, Cookeville is equidistant between our parents in Chattanooga and Nashville (which is great because at least our parents have to give us a little notice before driving up). Finally, our ability to get Madison to Vanderbilt has been critical to her care and success.
However, for this section, I am going to focus on the third installment listed above. As I said, we have no genetic family here in Cookeville. We have adopted brothers, sisters, moms, and dads… adopted through the Blood of Jesus Christ, for what other reason than because He adopted us than all these Cookevillians adopting us? So, while we may have no genetic family here in Cookeville, make no mistake is assuming we don’t have Blood Relatives here. They are everywhere. They’ve got our back! They tell me t this day (2 ½ - 3 years later), they continue to pray for Madison every single day. I cannot even say that I have prayed for my own daughter every single day of her life, but I believe my family members when they tell me they have! That’s family! That’s the kind of family that only Christ could create.
I want to drive this point home… some of you will know this, but let me remind/tell you all what this family of ours (and please understand that this also includes genetic families too) has done for us over the past three years.
The mountains of prayers aside, they have carried us. At the same time we were dealing with Madison’s early struggles, I was out of work ¾ of 2010 for three spine surgeries. I went months without getting paid, and our genetic and heavenly families provided. After starting back to work, Mandy and I were hit with this sinkhole of medical debt. Two of our sisters put together a Pampered Chef fire sell to help raise money for Madison’s medical bills. People were so touched by this, they just ended up sending us cash without buying anything. Well, we received the exact amount needed to remove Madison’s medical debt from our ledger. Someone out there, please convince me there is no God?!?!?! Finally, I shared privately with a friend of mine that Mandy and I planned to use our 2012 income tax refund to get hard wood floors in our home so Madison could use her walker. However, that desire was taken from me when I needed to use that entire refund coupled with the donated money to cancel out all the debt. Long story short, a week later, one of our friends a church brought me a check to cover most of the cost of new flooring. We had to hold on to that money a little longer than desire, but praise God hard wood floors went into our home in October and for the first time ever, Madison literally walked through our house three weeks ago. So, again I ask how big is your family? You gotta mom/dad, brother/sister, grandma/grandpa, aunt/uncle, etc… Your family big with 10-15? You should see my blood family, we run thousands deep, many of them I will never meet this side of heaven. However, I will meet ‘em some day. Believe that!
We cannot possibly be more thankful for our family, all of you!
I so want to keep going!!!!
If you have kept reading up to this point, all I want to do it keep typing. My blood is pumping. I am getting excited about someone reading this who doesn’t know about the Love of God, and I want to keep going. However, I’m going to wrap here.
Pray big for Madison. If you’re continuing to lift her up to God, don’t pray she walks, pray she runs. Don’t pray she can learn to use her legs properly in spite of the fact she cannot feel her feet from her ankles down, pray she gets that feeling back (which all of her doctors tell us will never happen… however, these claims come from the same profession [even though different people] as the moron who recommended we abort her, and told us she would never be able to use her legs at all). Don’t pray we will successfully reverse the vesicostomy and place a permanent catheter in her belly button, pray she gains control of her bladder so she can go pee like a big girl. Long story short, don’t waste your time or prayers praying to the King of creation for things that are possible with human intervention. Ask him for the crazy things for her that cannot be medically explained, but can be divinely explained quite easily.
I want to desperately for Madison to meet and hug every person who has prayed for, given to, or cared for her. It is something very special to be the parent of a little miracle that is loved by so many people.
I wouldn’t want anything to be any different that the way it is exactly at this moment. Everything has lead us all here to this exact point and time, for me to placed in the circumstances to write and care enough to write this message, for you to care enough to read this message, and then for you to be challenged to do something about this message.
If you know God and believe He sent His Son here to save us, thank him for every blessing and trial you’re currently in. If you don’t know or believe yet (but you may know or believe this story), ask this phantom God dude to reveal the truth to you.
Madison is going to change the world for forever (heck she already has). I pray this message will somehow, someway lead someone towards accepting the gift Christ has to offer.
Only God can save, but this letter might stoke the fire just a little bit!!!
All my heart has to offer!
“God loved this world so much, He decided to send His only Son down here to save us so that we have life here to the fullest and especially for life after here”